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Hidden Gems In Mechanicsburg & Lancaster

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I'm traveling to PA for a week and am interested in checking out some local hidden gems. By that I mean, independently owned small restaurants,diners, pubs that have been around a while and are held in high regard by locals for their food and/or specialty items. I'm NOT interested in who has the best pizza/wings/hoagies.

Local farmers markets and regional food items (i.e. shoe fly pie, etc) would be much appreciated too.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Go to supermarket: buy Lebanon Bologna and Grandma Utz potato chips (better if you can hit harrisburg costco, they're fresher there).

    Gettysburg Pretzels is consistently good -- some of the best pretzels in the world.

    27 Replies
    1. re: Chowrin

      Ha! I can get lebanon bologna (Kunzlers) and Utz chips in NC. I'll look for the Gettysburg pretzels though. I love a good pretzel. Thanks!

      1. re: lynnlato

        The obvious farmers market reccomendation is Central Market in Lancaster, although the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg is nice as well.

        If you want traditional Pa Dutch food in a non-touristy setting, our favorite place is Oregon Dairy Restaurant on 272 NE of Lancaster. Just ate there last night. My wife enjoyed her pork and sauerkraut, my nephew and Mom both had excellant Pa Dutch style chicken and waffles(creamed chicken,not soul-foodstyle fried chicken) and I had one of their specials Pork chop topped with Apple Butter Barbeque sauce. All excellant.

        Their homemade ice cream is very good as well, although we are almost always too full to indulge..

        1. re: brookquarry

          This is exactly what I was hoping for - thanks bq! And I always thought chicken n' waffles was waffles w/ chunks of chicken in a creamy gravy... until I moved south! Yum, now I've got a hunkerin' for that.

          Thanks Again!

          1. re: lynnlato

            Glad to help. If you have some time, wandering around the Backroads in the Amish area is a great way to happen on farmstands with local produce. I would take 772 from Gap Northwest to Leola branching off on side roads. Obviously a Gps is helpful,.Some of our favorite Amish/Mennonite places on this strip.

            1. Countryside Roadstand Stumptown Road about a mile north of 772. The absolute best soft prtezels dipped in melted butted. Fresh butter and milk as well as homemade root beer.(Amish owned)

            2 Lapp Valley Ice Cream Mentzer Road South of New Holland. Excellant homemade ice cream made on the farm from milk given by their herd of Jersey cows(the breed with the highest butterfat content in their milk) Traditional flavours, but very creamy and good. My favorite is the maple walnut.(Conservative Mennonite)

            3 Bird in Hand Bake Shop on Gibbons Road. Do not confuse this with the Bird in Hand Bakery on Route 340 IN Bird in Hand, which is not bad, but not as good.

            Excellant pies-including shoofly -and sticky buns. (conservative mennonite)

        2. re: lynnlato

          1) GRANDMA Utz potato chips? Or just regular Utz potato chips?? I said what I meant, and there is a very big difference. [amend: wouldn't be surprised if NC has Grandma utz, but it has a really, really short shelf life]
          2) Lebanon Bologna isn't good if it sits open too long (I could get it in pittsburgh... just not worth it). And seltzer's is way way better than Kunzler's anyhow. try the double smoked if you can find it.

          1. re: Chowrin

            forgot to mention Martin's Potato Bread.

          2. re: lynnlato

            oh and there's Middleswarth bbq potato chips. big hit with the locals.

            1. re: Chowrin

              I second the vote for Middleswarth....the regular flavor though!

              1. re: Chowrin

                I'm sorry I assumed that by Grandma Utz you meant Utz. I'm not familiar with Grandma Utz... hmm, I'll have to look for them next time. But I am from PA so I know about Middleswarth(love, love the bbq ones) and potato bread. I looked for, and asked around about, Gettysburg Pretzels but I couldn't find them or anyone that was familiar (which of course made me want them all the more). I settled for the bag of broken Wege pretzels which I always seek out when I head back up to Central PA.

                1. re: lynnlato

                  oh, they are made by Utz... but they're... real chips! with lard. thicker too.
                  the ones for general (non local consumption) aren't worth anything in comparison

                  1. re: Chowrin

                    Ooooh, gotcha! I'll seek them out next time for sure. Thanks!

              2. re: lynnlato

                Well, if you are going to get Lebanon bologna, get Seltzer's. And there are 2 kinds, sweet and original. I prefer original.

                You can also go to S. Clyde Weaver's in Lancaster (they have a stand at Central Market, but a lot more stuff at their store/restaurant on Rt. 72) for meats and cheeses.

                I'm a Martin's pretzel girl, personally. The dark ones that come in the bag with red print or the big bucket. I take them to my friends in NYC by the bucket because there are people in farmer's markets there that sell them by the individual pretzel! I can't imagine.

                Potato chips could be debated in it's very own thread. I grew up eating Deiffenbach's and Zerbe's, but to be honest will choose any that have lard on the ingredient list and are manufactured in a town I know how to drive to. Herr's are a more regional chip (like Utz) with many flavors available and I like them better than Utz. You can tour their factory in Nottingham on weekdays. It may be too far out of your way, though, since it is technically over the border into Chester Co. and almost at the MD border.

                I have never in my life purchased a shoo fly pie, because my mom makes them best. So I can't help you there.

                Favorite restaurants in Lancaster include John J. Jeffries and Ma(i)son. McCleary's in Marietta is my favorite local pub but if you are looking for a more "hole in the wall" feel, also in Marietta, Shank's Tavern is a local institution and proprietor Bob Shank would happily talk your ear off for hours about his family's many years at that location, the floods they've endured and how the area has changed. For PA Dutch food, I like Country Table in Mount Joy, but Oregon Dairy is good too (and more convenient for most visitors.)

                1. re: centralpadiner

                  Ugg. that Martin's suck. try the people in Akron (also known as Martin's) who put the creepy christian verses on their boxes. Nicest people ever - and they're fantastic.

                  I love sweet lebanon bologna, personally -- it brings out the smoke.

                  1. re: Chowrin

                    The bags/buckets she describes are from the bakery in Akron. The ones in NYC come from a different bakery I believe. But buy direct from the bakery in Akron. These pretzels must be fresh to be at their very best.

                    1. re: ahab

                      Yes, the one's from Akron . . . I REALLY thought they were the same ones they sell in NYC. The guy who does it comes down and gets their big boxes and sells them up there individually. Pretty sure I've seen him on tv, and the boxes are exactly the same.

                      1. re: centralpadiner

                        the akron people: http://www.martinspretzelspa.com/stor...
                        http://www.martinspretzels.com/market...
                        ... lord knows where this guy is from, but he's listing 314 as his area code under the contact us page.

                        Looks like the Akron folks finally found someone to make them a website. I remember needing to mail in an order form.

                        1. re: centralpadiner

                          I recall there being two bakeries, an idea which Chowrin's links below support. If there are, I believe that they are/were related in some way. When I lived in NYC, I bought some from the Union Square Market several times. They looked identical, but the ones bought at the bakery in Akron always tasted better to me. Maybe it's just a matter of them being at their freshest.

                          1. re: ahab

                            OK, Chowrin, after all your exultations about Gettysburg Pretzels, I had to grab a bag when I saw them in a market earlier this week. Excellent pretzel. It seems a little saltier than the Martin's I am used to (and I don't mean surface salt, although I did get the ones that had it, but the pretzel dough itself seems a little saltier) but still quite excellent. I would recommend them to anyone looking for a good pretzel. :)

                    2. re: centralpadiner

                      Maison is great. Pour is another higher end option in Lancaster.

                      Martin's Pretzels are worth the short side trip if you like pretzels. Go to the bakery on Diamond Street in Akron and get them fresh. You can also buy "soft" pretzels there. They are absolute perfection, crunchy on the outside and still soft in the middle. Weisers Market in Akron has outstanding freshly baked donuts if you get there in the morning. Both are closed on Sunday. Not sure if Martins always bakes on Saturday.

                      1. re: ahab

                        I'll add that if you are going to stop by Pour or Ma(i)son or the Lancaster Central Market (all of which I highly recommend), be sure to stop By Carmen And Dave's Creamery a block or so away, right near the Lancaster Central market. Its a local independently owned ice cream shop. They make the best home-made ice cream with very creative flavors, taking advantage of local ingredients.

                        1. re: sballard

                          Amen. Great ice cream. Definitely a local gem.

                          1. re: sballard

                            is it philly style?

                            turkey hill ice cream comes highly recommended. you haven't had american ice cream until you've had philly style.

                            1. re: Chowrin

                              Not exactly sure what you mean by "Philly Style'. Its homemade, small batch, hard ice cream made with fresh high quality ingredients, and creative flavors.

                              Later...CI

                              1. re: sballard

                                Philadelphia style is eggless -- because our milk is better than france's!

                                1. re: Chowrin

                                  Ahhh, I see. I don't know if they use eggs or not. All I know is it tastes damn good whatever they use. Right now the Salted Caramel is my favorite. They remind me of what Ben and Jerry's must have been like when they first started.

                                  1. re: sballard

                                    Mmm... my daughter and I were just talking about their salted caramel ice cream yesterday. :)

                        2. re: centralpadiner

                          Central, I will concede that your mom or my grandmother make the best shoo fly pies. I have only found one other place for what I consider a great shoo fly pie. There was a one/or two person bakery in Souderton, PA. Ms. Benner who baked excellent pies and cakes; when she retired she sold her recipes too a rural grocery store with only two location near Harleysville, PA. I get that way infrequently but will stop for what IMHO is an excellent shoo fly. Please have your mom deliver a few pies whenever possible!

                    3. Just getting ready for a trip to Carlisle and starting to research some places to chow at. Found a log today about Josie's GermanCakes and Market joint on RoadFood.com website located on Trindle Road in Mechanicsburg that looks like it is worth a detour for lunch. Wondering if anyone else has stumbled across this place?